Car Dealer’s James Baggott stars in BBC investigation into scam motor traders

  • BBC broadcasts in-depth look at murky world of online used car scams
  • Feature on Morning Live features input from Car Dealer boss James Baggott
  • Victims speak out on how scammers tricked them into parting with hundreds of pounds
  • One woman tells programme she was threatened by fraudster

Time 10:21 am, October 25, 2023

The BBC has broadcast an in-depth look into the murky world of online used car scammers, featuring input from our very own James Baggott.

Car Dealer’s founder was one of several contributors to a feature by Watchdog host Matt Allwright, which aired as part of today’s episode of Morning Live on BBC One.

The piece focused on the experiences of two used car customers who have recently fallen victim to scammers posing as legitimate car dealers online.

The show spoke to one customer, named Vulu, who sent a deposit of £250 to secure a vehicle he had seen on Facebook Marketplace.

However, after Vulu sent the money and arranged for delivery, the dealer stopped responding to his messages and failed to show up as arranged.

Vulu told the programme: ‘It was just a bog-standard picture of a car which seemed to have good mileage, so I reached out to the seller.

‘His response was “Sorry, the car is pretty much gone. Someone is coming to view the car.”

‘[The next day] he reached out to me and intimated that the car was still available, that he was still waiting on the other person to come and see it, and if I put down a deposit that will show him that I’m serious.

‘I sent him the £250. He acknowledged that he had received the money and he intimated that he would be travelling down with the car the following day.’

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Vulu added: ‘I told him that I had taken the Friday off work as well to make things more convenient for him to deliver the car and he didn’t respond.

‘I might have sent one more message and when he didn’t respond to that as well, I think the penny dropped that I had been scammed.’

Allwright also spoke to a female customer, who gave an interview under the condition of anonymity due to fears of reprisals from the criminals.

Going under the name of ‘Christine’, she told the show that after falling victim to a used car scam, she was threatened by the fake dealer who told her: ‘I know where you live so keep your mouth shut’.

Explaining her situation, she said: ‘I thought it was quite reasonable and also very low mileage.

‘I’d done an HPI check on it, that came back and the mileage corresponded with what it was listed as and there was no finance or adverse history so I thought, “yeah, it’s a good car”.

‘I contacted them via eBay and they said, “Yeah, I can send you a video of the car. Would you like to come and see it?”

‘He was saying, “Well, I’ve got other people interested. You can pay a deposit. Either you send the money now, or you’re not going to be able to keep the car because there’s other people coming.”

‘There was a level of pressure.’

Christine ended up paying a deposit of £900 as well as £270 on travel and accommodation, as the vehicle was at the other end of the country.

However, when she arrived to view the car, she found no dealership and realised she had been scammed.

She added: ‘There were a couple of garages there so we went in and asked and they said they’d had many people turn up in the past couple of weeks with the same sort of situation.

‘They’d sent a deposit or they’d sent the full money.

‘He rang me and he said, “Look, I don’t know why you’re so upset. Your car’s here, you’re just being stupid”.

‘I said “There is no car” and he said “Don’t forget, I know where you live. So you need to keep your mouth shut” and then he put the phone down.

‘I felt really used and really violated. What I’ve gone through, it’s real stress, and it’s real hassle and actually, I’m now just another statistic.

‘This is massive. Don’t send deposits.’

‘Scams are on an industrial scale’

Over recent years, Car Dealer has covered several similar stories and reported several to the authorities.

However, Baggott told the BBC that the issue is on an ‘industrial scale’ and was like ‘Whack a Mole’.

He said: ‘These sorts of scams are on an industrial scale.

‘We’ve done a lot of work trying to get these people shut down, but it’s like Whack a Mole – as soon as you shut one down, they start up another business.

‘There have been scams where websites are set up to clone other car dealerships, there have been fake car dealership websites that look completely genuine, and there have been some that have pretended to be a dealer on a social media platform.

‘My advice would be always to do your own research on these dealers.

‘Genuine dealers will have lots of reviews on sites like Google, Auto Trader and eBay Motors and you can check out whether they are legitimate. If they haven’t got any of them, with us that is a red flag.

‘The big problem with these deposit scams is the scammers put in a matter of urgency for the people that are looking to buy these cars.

‘They really want them – and try to convince them – to hand over the money. You don’t need to do that.

‘I would never send money to anybody or any car dealership or anybody without seeing the car beforehand, physically myself in a dealership.’

Click here to see the full feature, beginning at 09:12.

Jack Williams's avatar

Jack joined the Car Dealer team in 2021 as a staff writer. He previously worked as a national newspaper journalist for BNPS Press Agency. He has provided news and motoring stories for a number of national publications including The Sun, The Times and The Daily Mirror.

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